Great Tips for Moving Across Town or Across the Country

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASource: zillow.com ~ Author: Tali Wee

The costs of exiting one property and settling into a new home can accumulate quickly. Review these tips before making a move.

Moving is expensive, no matter how carefully you plan for it. Whether relocating for a new job, escaping rising rent prices or downsizing, the costs of exiting one property and settling into a new home can accumulate quickly.

We asked some finance bloggers to share their budgeting advice on relocating, and here are their suggestions.

How do you prepare your finances for an upcoming move?

I recommend that you begin saving and planning for a move as soon as you know it’s coming. Calculate all of your anticipated costs and begin setting aside money each month. Remember that there may be a lag time on getting back your current security deposits, so don’t count on those being immediately available to spend. — Laura Adams of Quick and Dirty Tips

The best way I have found to budget is by little bits. Think of it like filling up a cookie jar, although I do it electronically with a separate savings account. When I was saving for a house I used to put $300 a month into the account automatically, just like a bill right along with the other normal budgeted expenses. Next, any extra income I could generate — I would always have some ideas brewing to create side income or side jobs — I would throw in on top. If I had a slower month where I couldn’t contribute extra, I still felt like I was progressing toward the goal. — Ryan of Spilling Buckets

What are the most surprisingly expensive costs of moving?

I am always surprised at the extra costs you wouldn’t normally consider like deposits on utilities and having to buy things like rugs or curtains. You can really bust up a budget buying all new rugs and bath mats for your new place! — Kim Parr of Eyes on the Dollar

Signing up for new services. There always seems to be a fee to connect or move services. — Ryan of Impersonal Finance

The costs that typically shocked me are the ones related to things at the place I’m moving out of — cleaning fees, other expenses that I didn’t think I was going to get charged for, bills that were unpaid during the landlord’s downtime. — Jeff of Sustainable Life Blog

There’s always something! An extra night in a hotel, new furniture or home supplies, cleaning products … packing material. Whatever cost you estimate for your move, just add 10 percent so you’re not completely shocked at the end. — Spencer of Military Money Manual

How far in advance should you begin saving for a move?

This depends entirely on budget and income, but I would say budget your costs in advance, and aim to save 20 percent above those costs. However long it will take you to comfortably save that amount, do it. — Ryan of Impersonal Finance

How do you offset the costs of moving when you haven’t had much time to save?

One way to save money on your next move is to find your boxes for free. Check with some apartment communities in your area to see if you can collect boxes after someone moves in. This is a win-win for you and someone who needs to get rid of their boxes. — Laura Adams of Quick and Dirty Tips

It is best to identify things you don’t need or won’t need in the future. Moving should be the trigger point to get rid of things you don’t need so that you not only simplify your life but save a good deal of money on the move and storage expenses. — Shilpan Patel of Street Smart Finance

I love selling or giving away as much of my stuff as possible before I move: old furniture, clothes and sports equipment. Basically, if I haven’t touched it in the three years I’ve lived somewhere, I probably don’t need to lug it across the country! If you force yourself to give away or sell many of your things before you move, you’ll avoid the trap of having a storage unit or so many possessions that they begin to possess you! It’s liberating to have less things to worry about, care about and maintain. — Spencer of Military Money Manual

How do you prevent overspending on moving services?

To budget for a relocation it’s important to get multiple mover quotes and make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. For instance, get quotes that offer the same amount of damage insurance and provide the same amount of service and packing material. I found out the hard way how expensive boxes, packing paper, bubble wrap and tape can be. Even if you plan to move yourself, it’s still a good idea get a full service moving quote as a baseline. — Laura Adams of Quick and Dirty Tips

I’ve had my fair share of challenges during moves in the past several years. One of the challenges is to find the right mover at an affordable price. The lesson I learned from some of my mistakes is to do proper planning before hiring a mover and have all the terms and conditions properly documented so if disputes arise, then you have legal protection. Also, you should check references online and with the better business bureau before hiring a moving company. — Shilpan Patel of Street Smart Finance

Should you recruit friends to help?

We’ve always had help from friends and it’s worked great. Our last move was only a few miles, so we didn’t even rent a truck. Our friends all showed up in vans or their own trucks and we had a caravan. If you buy them all pizza afterward and return the favor when it’s their turn, it’s a win-win for everyone. — Kim Parr of Eyes on the Dollar

I have had friends help move in the past, and it has worked out great. To make it easy on your friends, please make sure that ALL of your things are packed before you start moving. — Jeff of Sustainable Life Blog

Do you have any tips for people considering moving?

Moving is hard and expensive. I am all in favor of moving for a better opportunity, but I would really consider the true costs and all the extras before pulling up stakes. — Kim Parr of Eyes on the Dollar

Remember, relocating is more expensive than the fees for boxes, movers and utility cancellations and reactivations. You’ll have new bills and want funds to furnish your new home. The standard guideline is that monthly debts should not surpass 36 percent of your monthly income, including rent, car payments and other bills. Calculate home affordability before committing to the expensive process of moving, to ensure it’s the best long-term fit.

Relocation is never simple or easy. If you are in the market to buy (or sell) a home in  Northern California, Realtors associated with Century 21 M&M look forward to walking you through the process. Rest assured that Century 21 M&M Realtors will do their best to make sure that both Buyers and Sellers are protected during the transaction.

Real Estate is Crucial to Your Investment Portfolio: Here’s Why

buying real estateSource: biggerpockets.com ~ Author: Ken Corsini

Financial planners and investment advisors emphasize the importance of diversification in a portfolio of investments, as well they should.

Diversification reduces the impact of poor performance on the part of any particular company or sector. Diversification also helps the investor achieve balanced results by combining the equity appreciation from growth-oriented securities or funds with the current cash flow provided by income-oriented funds, utility stocks and bonds.

The particular mix of equity and cash flow can be adjusted to the financial needs and goals of the investor.

Similar logic can also apply to buy-and-hold real estate investment. Diversification can provide a cushion against a particular property that performs poorly, as well as balance the overall financial results for the investor.

Benefits of a Diverse Portfolio

First, holding just one property involves much more risk than holding a portfolio of 3, 5 or 10 properties since any given property can perform poorly from time to time due to tenant behavior or the need for capital investment (ex. HVAC system roof, etc.). With a portfolio, the income from the other properties can cover for the cash flow shortfall associated with the problem property.

Related: Real Estate is Better than Stocks – Fact, Not Opinion.

Beyond the obvious benefit of reducing individual property risk, diversification can also help balance the portfolio’s results according to the preferences and needs of the investor. Different cities, submarkets, levels of leverage and property types offer varying return profiles that investors can combine to achieve a balanced portfolio with a performance mix that matches the financial target.

Combining Diverse Property Investments

Low-cost properties in more modest neighborhoods may offer exceptional cash flow, but may not have potential to achieve any significant appreciation. Those properties may play a role similar to utility stocks that provide high dividend yields, but often do not promise great growth potential.

Other, more expensive properties in more affluent areas, particularly in cities with strong and growing economies, may offer better appreciation potential, but less substantial immediate cash flow results. Combining property types provides a combination of current income and future equity growth and also provides diversification against the risk of deteriorating property values in a particular submarket.

Related: Passive Real Estate Investments vs REITs

Many investors adopt a strategy of investing in the property type that they find most comfortable, but a diversified approach can provide a cash flow floor for the investor who is looking primarily for gains through property appreciation, or similarly a better inflation hedge for the investor that is primarily looking for current cash flow.

Optimizing the Use of Leverage

With a diversified approach, an investor may also optimize the use of leverage with some simple strategizing. With the current limitation of ten conventional loans, an investor can plan to use financing on the more expensive properties in the portfolio to maximize longterm borrowing capacity.

Leverage amplifies both appreciation and to a lesser extent cash returns. However, it is a mistake to focus on the effect of leverage only on a particular property because at the end of the day, the portfolio will perform as an aggregate.

The cash flow from all of the properties will be used to service all of the debt used to finance the purchase of any of the properties.

Conclusion

A diversified portfolio of properties can provide an investor with steady cash flow and healthy equity growth over time, while maximizing the benefits of applying leverage to amplify results.

Of course, the most important diversification step a savvy investor makes occurs at the first purchase of real property. As BiggerPockets readers well know, a real asset that generates income is a terrific hedge against inflation and almost completely uncorrelated to the volatile stock market.

If you are in the market to buy (or sell) a home in  Northern California, Realtors associated with Century 21 M&M look forward to walking you through the process. Rest assured that Century 21 M&M Realtors will do their best to make sure that both Buyers and Sellers are protected during the transaction.

Homeownership Expenses You Might Not Anticipate

expenses

Source: Zillow.com ~ Author: Tali Wee

Purchasing a home is an exciting time, especially for first-time buyers. However, the financial commitment is sometimes overwhelming.

Beyond the standard mortgage, taxes and insurance calculations, homeowners inevitably face unexpected fees, repairs and lifestyle adjustments when settling into their new homes. We asked a few financial bloggers to share their experiences and advice on the expenses of buying and owning homes.

What was the most unanticipated expense of buying your home?

Two years ago, we purchased our home in New York after owning homes in Georgia and Florida, and we were surprised at how much higher our closing costs were in New York versus the other states. The biggest surprise was the lawyer fee we were required to pay. When we purchased homes in the past, everything was handled through the escrow agent, and additional legal fees were not required. — Shannon McLay of Financially Blonde

What are the most surprising expenses you encounter as a homeowner?

The surprising expenses are seasonal: decorating the house for the holidays, planting flowers in the spring, home projects in the summer. While it’s easy to think about the weekly and monthly routine expenses, those are more difficult to plan around. — Joe Saul-Sehy of Stacking Benjamins

Which bills increased when you became a homeowner?

Condo fees and heat! When we were renting, our landlord paid for heat and hot water. Let’s just say, now that we’re homeowners we’re taking shorter showers and wearing more sweaters in the winter. — Student Debt Survivor

What is the most expensive cost of owning a home vs. renting?

The answer has got to be maintenance. We would never have had to buy a new roof as renters, but we had to pay approximately $15,000 for the entire roof to be reshingled. The others would to have new landscaping put in ($7,000), and all windows, which were installed in 1961, were replaced with double-pane windows ($15,000). Ongoing expenses, like utilities (natural gas, electricity, water, trash), gardeners, property tax, and insurance are not all that costly, but they add up over the course of a year to just under $10,000. — Save and Conquer

How did your budget change after buying a home?

We were very aggressive with saving our money prior to buying our house. We were saving over 50 percent of our income. We didn’t go out very often, and we tried to eat at home. We bought a fixer-upper because it was in a better location and the price was more affordable than new builds. DIY Network and Pinterest make DIY updates seem so easy and affordable. Prior to homeownership, we never had to worry about paying for repairs or really about updating our apartment. We were renters. Now, I have to make sure any purchase fits in our budget. I’m also saving for bigger improvements like the patio. Instead of going shopping for clothes and shoes, I’m allocating that money to Lowe’s or Home Depot! So far, we have had to call a plumber to fix a leak, the exterminator to exterminate, and now, our garbage disposal is broken. $100 here and there adds up. — Savvy Financial Latina

What advice can you offer prospective home buyers beginning their shopping experiences?

Transitioning from a renter to a homeowner can be an expensive endeavor. You need to have much more money in your emergency fund to cover various things that can go wrong. Don’t forget to budget for property taxes, home insurance, repairs, HOA fees, utilities, furnishing and landscaping. There are many more expenses when you’re a homeowner. — Retire By 40

What saving strategies did you use to prepare for the expenses of homeownership?

I’m not sure if it’s a savings strategy, but whenever my wife or I wanted to spend on certain things, we’d say to ourselves, “We’re saving for a house.” That helped us focus on our priorities and goals, and not spend on things that we might have otherwise. I think it is also important to try living on your future budget as a homeowner to ensure that you can afford to buy a house. — Living Rich Cheaply

What financial concerns do you have about purchasing a home now?

My main reservation is that I don’t know how long I plan on staying in one area. I still want to travel the world before I buy. When I’m ready, I’ll create a realistic budget for a home and stick to it. Too many people create a budget and go over, and then fail to realize that they still have to pay property taxes, property, insurance and more. — Alexis Schroeder of FITnancials

How can first-time buyers financially plan for the total costs of homeownership?

Save as much money as you can. If you’re able to save for a 20 percent down payment, that’s even better. Once you move in you’ll be amazed at how often something will need your attention. That will generally take money. Go in with having money set aside to cover things that might pop up. You should also put money aside each month to cover those things. You might feel it, but the last thing you want is to be surprised by an expense and not be financially prepared for it. — John Schmoll of WiseDollar

If you are in the market to buy (or sell) a home in  Northern California, Realtors associated with Century 21 M&M look forward to walking you through the process. Rest assured that Century 21 M&M Realtors will do their best to make sure that both Buyers and Sellers are protected during the transaction.

Breaking Down Debt: How 4 Different Loans Affect Your Mortgage-Worthiness

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Source: forbes.com ~ Contributor: Trulia.com

Want to get a new mortgage? Then, your credit score is a really big deal — it can make or break your mortgage payments, and ultimately determine whether or not you get the house you want.

But before we talk about credit scores, let’s talk about the debt that affects them. There are two types of debt: secured and unsecured. When you borrow money to buy a house, the bank can take back the house to recoup their money if you don’t pay the debt. That means the debt is secured — it’s being balanced against something that you want to keep, and gives the bank some measure of security that they’re going to be able to recover the money they’ve loaned you.

Unsecured debt, on the other hand, means the bank can’t reclaim the thing you’re buying with the borrowed money. (Credit card debt is unsecured, and so are student loans.)

Let’s look at the impact of four key consumer loans, a mix of secure and unsecured debt, on your credit score—and ultimately your mortgage worthiness:

1. Student loans

Student loans are unsecured debt, but they’re not necessarily bad for your credit score — if you pay your bills on time. Because they often take decades to pay off, student loans can actually help your score. Loans held (and paid consistently) over a long period of time raise your score. Student loans will figure into your overall debt-to-income ratio, though, so they might affect your ability to afford a mortgage.

2. Auto loans

Auto loans are secured debt, because the lender can repossess the car if you don’t pay up. In some cases, auto loans raise your credit score by diversifying the types of debt you carry. And because auto loans are harder to get than credit cards, some mortgage lenders may look favorably on you because you’ve already been approved for a loan that wasn’t a slam dunk.

Payday loans don’t usually show up on your credit report. But if you default on the loan, it might ding your credit. Payday loans are unsecured — the lender doesn’t have any collateral — and the interest rates are often exorbitant, costing way more than people expect.

4. Existing mortgage loans

Mortgages are the classic example of a secured debt because the bank has the ultimate collateral — a piece of property. Mortgages, when paid on time, are great for your credit score. Missed payments on previous mortgages will make your new lender very nervous, however. If you already have a mortgage and are applying for another one, the new lender will want to know that you can afford to pay both bills every month, so they’ll be looking closely at your debt-to-income ratio.

If your second mortgage is for a rental property, you may be expecting the rental income to count towards the income side of the equation. But most lenders won’t count rental income until you’ve been a landlord for two years. Until that time, you have to qualify for any mortgages using documented income from other sources.

In general, having different types of debt can boost your credit score. So it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have a student loan and an auto loan when you’re applying for a mortgage. But be careful — over-borrowing can hurt you. Most mortgage companies, in addition to looking at your overall credit score, will look for a debt-to-income ratio below 43 percent. They’ll look at all the money you owe, and the monthly payments on all of that debt. They want to see that your income is enough to cover all your debts, including the mortgage you’re applying for.

If you are in the market to buy (or sell) a home in  Northern California, Realtors associated with Century 21 M&M look forward to walking you through the process. Rest assured that Century 21 M&M Realtors will do their best to make sure that both Buyers and Sellers are protected during the transaction.

6 (Surprisingly Affordable!) Luxury Features Buyers Love

Courtesy of Trulia.com

Courtesy of Trulia.com

Source: trulia.com ~ Author: Tara-Nicholle Nelson

Modest. Affordable. Starter. There is no shortage of words we use to describe a home that cost less than the average in an area. But no matter how —shall we say,budget-friendly—a listing is, or how constrained the buyer’s wallet may be, every home-owner hopeful still has the wish-list of luxury features that they simply think theycan’tlive without. It can drive agents batty. After all, in real estate, you get what you pay for. If you have a beer budget, that’s okay! But don’t expect that you’re going to get Champagne.

Still, when it comes to buying a home, it’s going to be the biggest investment most consumers make in their lifetime, and even a home that’s budget-friendly is going to feel like they’re dropping big bucks. Think about it: almost no one looks at their monthly mortgage statement and says, “Wow! It’s just so cheap!” Luckily, there are a few little luxuries that sellers and agent can easily install or fake that don’t cost a fortune and that potential buyers go wild over! Here are a few of those little, affordable luxuries! If you’ve got a listing that needs some more buyer love, these little fixes can go a long way toward closing a killer deal.

1. Automation

For a home to automatically anticipate your preferences and living habits, and conduct itself accordingly, is a serious luxury that no longer requires a serious investment. Easily programmable thermostats and smart home systems are now available at very low prices.

Check out the Nest Learning Thermostat for one of the most simple-to-use, inexpensive alternatives around. Created by the man who designed the iPod, it learns the temperatures you prefer without any complicated programming process, it can detect when no ones home and change the temperature accordingly, and it is even remote controllable via Wi-Fi and mobile app.

In some areas, home cable companies are now bundling temperature automation and smart home features like remote-controlled lighting, temperatures and security systems and even smoke and carbon monoxide monitors right into the same online dashboard you use to pay your bill or order a movie on-demand. Word of mouth raves from users of these sorts of systems often include delight at money saved on overall more efficient use of electricity, time saved coming home to check that doors are locked and other little daily assists beyond the expected convenience. These next-gen automations are able to be had in the $200 or less range, up front, though the size of the home and number of devices required can send costs upward.

2. Nature Niceties

Visiting my grandmother recently, I was reminded that there is nothing quite so luxurious as craving a piece of fruit or a particular meal and being able to walk right into your backyard and grab the fixings for it—cost and chemical-free. This doesn’t even factor in the beauty of a kitchen garden right outside your window, or the healthfulness of gardening as a habit. The range of cost for landscaping and creating what many now call outdoor rooms is vast. But there are also dozens of inexpensive projects that can level-up a home’s nature factor, like:

  • installing raised vegetable beds in the backyard;
  • hanging a vertical garden on the kitchen wall;
  • putting in window boxes or outdoor seating;
  • installing a bird bath or planting a new tree.

Lush, green anything is a luxury that can cost very little to enjoy for years on end.

3. Delicious Details

Customizing, sprucing and even adding little details can make a tract home feel custom, a condo feel personalized and can even take a home with character and imbue it with your character. These little projects can also be bizarrely high in the aesthetic impact and feeling of polish they add to a home vis-a-vis the relatively low investment of time and money they require. Walk through the listing and see where you can work with the sellers to add, improve or tweak the details— consider projects like:

  • Adding crown moldings or baseboards;
  • Adding interior or exterior shutters;
  • Painting moldings, baseboards, mantles and door trims a contrasting color to the surrounding areas;
  • Replacing doors and lighting fixtures (I just replaced the pendant lighting fixture over my own kitchen table and have to say, it looks like a new room!) ;
  • Replacing dated faucets, sinks, toilets and hardware— even recessed lighting soffits and door handles;
  • Painting exterior eaves, doors, trims and fences.

4. Solar

A survey by Sunrun revealed that over 40 percent of Americans believe a solar system cost more than $20,000. And get this: eight out of 10 homeowners said they would install a solar system at home if cost wasn’t a factor. Solar is not for everyone, and not even for every home, but in states with sunny, hot summers and energy bills to boot, installing a solar system can create the double luxury of allowing owners to run the home on renewable energy and reduce energy costs in one fell swoop. The truth is, in some states, cost isn’t a factor.

There’s a new generation of companies— solar power service providers— who will pay for a solar system, install it on the home for little or nothing, and pay for its maintenance. In turn, the homeowner pays them for the power used. These arrangements are not available everywhere, but it’s certainly worth investigating whether you can find a solar service provider in your neck of the woods who can boost the perceived value of the listing.

5.Built-ins (or faux ones)

Built-ins like desks, book shelves, closet systems and even kitchen recycling centers feel particularly luxurious because they offer a polished approach to efficient use of the space in a home, and often eliminate the need for bulky pieces of furniture. You might be surprised to realize how affordable it can be to build a desk or closet organizer into your existing space. Or, get up to speed on all the off-the-shelf built-in alternatives that are on the market, like a kitchen nook dining set in lieu of a built-in banquette. Think creatively: placing a day bed under a window with a bookcase on each end is a fantastic alternative to building a window seat between built-in shelves. Look for built-in alternatives on Craigslist or Freecycle, then have it painted or reupholstered, to get a luxe, custom look at a very low price.

6. Dedicated Spaces

Like custom built-ins, dedicating a space to a particular favorite activity is a special luxury, even if the home is not otherwise especially luxurious. The idea here is to simply dedicate a space to an activity, painting it, installing the appropriate furniture and carving out a place for all the supplies that are involved in that activity. At my house, I just painted the office in bright colors that researchers have found to boost creativity, installing new project tables and bookshelves to facilitate the organization and stand-up work style I prefer. My friend A.G. has turned one bedroom into a room for her menagerie of pets—dogs and birds alike!

Tell us! What little luxuries do you think buyers love?

If you are in the market to buy (or sell) a vacation home in  Northern California, Realtors associated with Century 21 M&M look forward to walking you through the process. Rest assured that Century 21 M&M Realtors will do their best to make sure that both Buyers and Sellers are protected during the transaction.

Home Buying – Step 5. Loan approval or commitment

loan approval
Step 5 in the home buying process is maybe the most important step in the whole process – loan approval and commitment. But first, the mortgage lender will want to fully approve your credit, debt and income history.

Whether you are buying a home or refinancing an existing home loan, you will find out that lenders today can be pretty demanding during the process of a loan approval. Even well-qualified borrowers have to jump through hoops to qualify for loan financing.

The following conditions are what the mortgage lender will be looking at:

  • Your ability to pay the interest and principal due on the loan along with the expenses of home owners insurance and property taxes.
  • Your track record of paying debts, which includes your credit score and credit history.
  • Your down payment and what percentage that is of your current home’s value.
  • And, the appraised value -vs- the agreed upon purchase price, along with the safety and soundness of the home as determined by a pest inspection and/or a home inspection.

What mortgage lenders like to see is strength and stability in all four of the above mentioned conditions. Of course providing the supporting documents for these condition means a pile of paperwork that support the borrower’s financial position which may include (but not limited to):

  • One month of paycheck stubs
  • 2 years of w-2 forms
  • 3 months of  bank statements
  • 2 years of income tax returns
  • If you filed for bankruptcy within the last 7 years, you will need your bankruptcy papers
  • If you have deferred repayment of student loans, you should bring your deferral agreement as well.

In addition to your credit approval, the bank will want to make certain that the property appraises at no less than the contract price,  and approve the property’s preliminary title report to make sure there are no liens recorded against the property that might affect its value.

Mortgage lenders may take up to 30 days to complete this review, but the review has been completed to the bank’s satisfaction, you are guaranteed a loan and you are one step closing to home ownership.

If you are in the market to buy (or sell) a vacation home in  Northern California, Realtors associated with Century 21 M&M look forward to walking you through the process. Rest assured that Century 21 M&M Realtors will do their best to make sure that both Buyers and Sellers are protected during the transaction.

 

Home Buying – Step 4. Inspections

home inspectionOnce an offer on a property is accepted, most home buyers hire a certified home inspector to assess the condition of the home. After the inspection, the inspector will provide a detailed report to the buyer which will help the buyer decide how to proceed with the purchase.

If the home inspection report reveals some hidden problems, the buyer has a few options; cancel the contract and terminate the purchase; ask for the seller to complete repairs; or request a price reduction or purchase credit from the seller to cover repairs.

Often however, the buyer doesn’t understand the importance of a home inspection and down the road discovers some problems with the home that could have been revealed ahead of time in the inspection report.

Keeping the factors below in mind can help ensure that you get the most value from the process:

It’s a Good Idea to Attend the inspection

It’s a huge mistake for home buyers to decide not to attend the home inspection. Your real estate agent can do it for you, however if you miss the inspection you are not going to hear the inspector point out problems that might be an issue down the road.

Many buyers let their real estate agent handle the process and don’t even attend the inspection. This is a huge mistake. Most real estate sales professionals are going to do a great job for you, but if you rely on them to handle this process alone, then you aren’t going to hear the inspector point out any issues that might cause you to think again about whether it is the right property for you.

Ask to see the Home Inspector’s credentials

In many states across America, a home inspector doesn’t need formal inspection education and they might not even have to be licensed or bonded. However, in order to make sure the home inspector is competent and capable, you might want to do a little research on your local state’s requirements, certifications and professional designations. Then before you hire a specific inspector, verify their experience and knowledge. If you don’t, you might get a really bad inspection report that fails to find important issues.

Start on the internet, go to the home inspectors website and look for their certifications and memberships, then go and make sure the home inspector actually has the certifications and memberships. Another good idea is to google the [inspectors name or business name] along with the word [reviews] and check out the feedback from clients.

Inspect the home for yourself

It is always a good idea to take the time to look at the property objectively. Take along a friend or family member for a 2nd set of eyes.

Foundation: Look at the base of the walls and the ceilings in each room. Are there obvious cracks or apparent shifts in the foundation? Do the same around the outside. Are there any trees butted up against the foundation?

Lot: Are there any obvious soggy areas? Does the drainage appear to be away from the house?

Roof: What is the overall condition? When was it last replaced? Are there any curled, cracked or missing roof tiles?

Exterior: What condition is the paint in, does it need to be repainted soon? How about the gutters and downspouts, are they firmly attached? Do you see any loose boards or dangling wires? Is there asbestos in the exterior material, which would require added costs if it needed to be repaired or replaced?

Attic: How does the interior of the roof structure look? Are there any signs of leaks?

Interior evidence of leaks: Check ceilings and around windows in each room, any evidence of water leakage?

Basement: Is there dampness? Adequate insulation? (If there’s a crawlspace instead of a basement, you might want to leave this for the professional home inspection.)

Electrical: Does the panel need to be updated? Is there room in it for additional circuits? Do the switches work? Are there any obvious malfunctions? Have the outlets been grounded?

Plumbing: Run the water and flush the toilets, are there any unusual noises or malfunctions? It is a good idea to have the sewer line scoped to check for potential cracks?

Appliances: If these are included, what is the age and condition of the stove, dishwasher or refrigerator?

Heating/cooling system: Run the furnace and air conditioner, does it seem to do the job? How old is the furnace? If the system has been converted, are the old systems or tanks still in place?

Odor: If there is an odor in the home, can you detect what it might be and whether it could be fixed? Beware of musty odors which could signal mold and water leaks.

If you see something that makes you second guess whether this is the right property for you, you’ll be glad you found it before you close of escrow. After all, this is the most expensive purchase you will ever make – doesn’t it make sense to inspect the property before you make the final purchasing decision?

Make a list of potential costs for making the repairs

For your own peace of mind, you should make a list of the necessary repairs and add up the cost for those repairs. Adding up all those costs, plus getting bids and estimates to make those repairs and upgrades, will give you a better feel for how much you will be spending on the property once you take ownership. You may need to enlist the services of residential contractor to get a better idea of what these repairs may cost

Negotiate the repairs and necessary home improvements

With the home inspection report in hand, plus your list of needed improvements and the probable costs, you can ask your Realtor to request that the seller make the repairs. The seller may say ‘no repairs’ or offer to repair some of the items, or possibly give you a purchase credit. The more detailed your list, the better chance you have that the seller will give a little – or maybe a lot.

If you are in the market to buy (or sell) a home in  Northern California, Realtors associated with Century 21 M&M look forward to walking you through the process. Rest assured that Century 21 M&M Realtors will do their best to make sure that both Buyers and Sellers are protected during the transaction.